Border pipers Matt Seattle and Bill Telfer send off a prize-winning sword from the grounds of Gelnockie Tower on its way to London to the strains of the  tune of Johnnie Armstrong

In February this year  the Scottish Goldsmith Kenneth Erik Moffatt, made a Historic Pilgrimage from Scotland to London to claim his right, as a Freeman of the City of London, to carry a drawn sword through the City.
This unique sword has a hilt hammered and chased in yellow gold and silver, and its pictorial narrative illustrates the heroic 16th century ballad of Johnnie Armstrong. Although the hilt is modern, the blade is an original from the 16th century, and the work of the celebrated swordsmith Andrea Ferara.

Moffatt and Seattle and Telfeer at Gilnokie Tower

Johnnie Armstrong and his men, the notorious heroes of the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, were treacherously hanged without trial from the trees at Caerlenrig in 1530 by order of the young Scottish King James V, who was pressured by his uncle, King Henry VIII.
Starting from Gilnockie tower, the erstwhile home of the Armstrongs, in the Scottish Borders, and accompanied by his father Brian, Kenneth was piped off to the tune of Johnnie Armstrong, played by  Border pipers Matt Seattle and Bill Telfer.
The sword was on its way to be delivered as an entry to the 2010 Goldsmith's competition at the Goldsmith's Hall. During the journey Ken and the sword received blessings at St Giles, and at St Paul’s Cathedral, and were also welcomed and escorted from the Tower of London, following their arrival in London and start of the Historic walk to the Goldsmiths Hall through the City.
This was the first time in over 400 years that a sword has been ceremonially carried from Edinburgh to London, the last time being in 1603 when James 6th of Scotland, 1st of England, made the same journey to claim the throne of a United Kingdom.
The Sword was given the 'Gold' award at the Goldsmiths Hall in March making it Britain's top piece of chasing and repoussé work for 2010.
Speaking of his intentions when making the sword-hilt Ken said:
“The aims and ambitions of the piece are, for the first time, to meld the indigenous Folk Art and spirituality of the North, with the skills and expression of the virtuoso goldsmith, in the hope of producing an icon that reflects the character and spirit of a unique regional identity, and of a people, and to offer a glimpse into a remarkable period of history.

Detail of the prize-winning sword hilt


The Ballad of Johnie Armstrang

Sum speiks of lords, sum speiks of lairds,
And siclyke men of hie degrie;
Of a gentleman I sing a sang,
Sumtyme calld Laird of Gilnockie.

Matt Seattle supplied this version of the tune, as approximating what they played to pipe off the sword; he describes it as
“adapted from the tune learned by Stenhouse from Robert Hastie, Jedburgh town piper. Hastie's tune is only a fragment of the much more elaborate song version (see Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion, or The Scottish Musical Museum).”  
Hastie, Stenhouse said, “was a famous reciter of the old Border Ballads ... The notes as he chanted them in my infancy (for he really was not what in modern times is termed a singer) still vibrate in my ear”
The verse of the ballad given here comes from Allan Ramsay's The Ever Green, 'copied from a gentleman's mouth of the name of Armstrang, who is 6th generation from this John'.
A different version appears on a Broadside held at the National Library in Edinburgh; said to date from 1701, it has the title “John Armstongs Last Farewel Declaring how he and his Eight-score men fought a bloody Battell at Edinburgh. To the Tune of, fare thou well bonny Gilt knock Hall”.